Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Meditating on Scripture

I have sadly gone through a season of simply reading the word of God. Some of you might say, "Well hey Simon, I don't even really do that." Well let me tell you that is a drastically sad situation for you, but for me I find it tragic that all I have done is set myself the task of reading it on a day by day basis. Why do I say this? Well for many reasons I guess.

The emotional reason behind why I am writing these words is because only last week I re-committed to doing what I, believe it or not, used to do as a really young believer. I re-committed to studying the word of God and trying to meditate upon it, ingesting the words that God inspired a multitude of writers to pen in order that I may know Him intimately. Highlighting the verses and words that seem to just jump off the page speaking of the magnitude and wonder of this God who has chosen to love me. Already I feel as if I am drawing nearer to Him who made me, and feeling my faith being renewed. It is great! It is where I should seek to be on a consistent basis, for my life is so much emptier without it.

So I, in grace, challenge you. Meditate on His word daily. Eat it, chew on it; let it define who you are and allow it to transform you into the likeness of Him who is the very likeness of God- the logos, the WORD, Jesus Christ.

Will you...

Upholding His Holiness

In the final verses of the book of Deuteronomy when Moses has climbed on to a mountaintop upon which he knows he is to die, for the Lord has told him such, we read these simply heart-halting words:
"There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die... this is because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites."
Chapter 32: 50-51

These words rocked me this morning while sitting in Starbucks in Temple, Texas. They struck me particularly, I guess, because I am so very near to stepping into a position of leadership over God's people-the position that Moses had (obviously in a way that will never be equalled (scripture says that at the very end of the book of Deuteronomy.)) Also, a friend had asked me just last night what it was I fear as I step into this position in the New Year. Having read these words I see the single thing that I must fear.

It is easy to fear the ramifications of my own insecurities: the desire for recognition; success defined by numbers; a competitive spirit, but these things just must not be what I fear as I step into this role and fulfill my calling.
I must fear the Lord. I must primarily desire to fulfill what is hidden in this astonishing phrase, "Upholding His Holiness." What does it mean? And, Lord Jesus by the power of Your Spirit please never let me fail in this area.

I want to expound this phrase at some stage, but for now I think it is of absolute importance that I take to heart how it is that such a mighty man of God would be denied the joy of entering the promised land of God. He did not enter that place because he failed in this area: UPHOLDING THE HOLINESS OF GOD!

God help me my great Helper.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Shout out to Dave Capener

Being meaning to do this for yonks now (a brit word I think for my other mates wondering what that was) but I want to give a big shout out to a very good friend of mine, Dave Capener; currently getting all set and seeking the glorious grace of our Father to plant a church in to Belfast City... Go YOU!!

I have set up his blog roll on my 'Musings out There' section so you can have a peek at what is going on in his world. But if you want to check it out, click here!


Dr. Lloyd Jones with a blast on 'Formal Christianity'

One thing I have felt, even spoken of, alas without the powerful eloquence of Lloyd Jones (whom I am set to quote), is the foolishness and stupidity of living halfheartedly as a Christian, in a sense just kind of being a half-Christian. Well, yesterday I stumble upon these astounding words from Dr. Lloyd Jones (A preacher recognized by Piper as one of the best of the 20th Century) in a book called, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.

He is preaching on Matt. 5: 15 & 16 where Christ calls us to LET OUR LIGHT SHINE. In the middle of his sermon Lloyd Jones says these words about this way of life I was referring to above, he calls it 'Formal Christianity.' Read this:

"... there is nothing in God's universe that is utterly so useless as a merely formal Christian. I mean by that. one who has the name but not the quality of a Christian... They appear to be Christian but they are not. They want to appear as Christians, they are not functioning as Christians. They are salt without savour, light without light, if you can imagine such a thing.

...The formal Christian is a man who knows enough about Christianity to spoil the world for him; but does not know enough about it for it to be of any positive value. He does not go with the world because he knows just enough about it to be afraid of certain things... that he cannot be wholeheartedly with them. On the other hand he has no real fellowship with the Christian. He has enough 'Christianity' to spoil everything else, but not enough to give him real happiness, peace and joy, and abundance of life. I think such people are the most pathetic people in the world. Our Lord certainly says they are the most useless people in the world. They do not function as worldlings or as Christians. They are nothing, neither salt nor light, neither one thing nor the other...
They are finally outsiders.
They are more outside, in a sense, then the man who is entirely worldly and makes no claim or profession, because he at least has his own society!"

Hard but true. Hot nor cold, we cannot play the 'luke-warm' game with a Holy God.


Wesley on 'Tending to the Life of the Mind'

A good friend of mine yesterday, during a discussion on the role of reading to grow the soul, led me to a quote in an Appendix at the back of John Piper's The Pleasures of God (A must read, honestly). The man quoted is the great John Wesley, "A leader in the Great Awakening in England of 250 years ago... not an impractical ivory tower inhabitant."
Wesley is counseling (although gives this word new meaning I think) another preacher about a "proper esteem for tending to the life of the mind"--

"What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. hence your talent in preaching does not increase... It is lively, but not deep: there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. reading only can supply this, with meditation and the daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it; anymore than a thorough Christian. Oh begin!
... Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is your life: there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty superficial preacher."

Totally politically incorrect counseling indeed; yet I can confirm seeing the reality of this. I have heard preaching that never seems to bring fresh thought, thought far greater and broader then their own when they speak.
Yes it is often lively, but the depth and variety is certainly amiss.
Preacher or not, take these strong words to heart from a man who made a startling difference to the face of Christianity in a generation.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Carson on God's Ideas of Leadership

As I mentioned in my last post, I have time at the moment to really invest in some reading. Again and again I am struck by the wealth of wisdom and inspiration that is available to us as the people of God if we are just willing to put the effort in to read the thoughts and 'heart lyrics' of the many men and women more attuned to the words of the Spirit then ourselves.

D.A. Carson is such a man, with simply marvelous insight into the meaniong and exposition of scripture. The quote I want to share today is from a stunning little book that should really be on any Christian Leaders shelf entitled The Cross and Christian Ministry which is an exposition of the book of First Corinthians in relation to ministry and leadership with the Cross of Christ as the pivotal moment/idea/theological/devotional reality through which such ministry/leadership must be pursued.

His thoughts (particularly relating to Factionalism within the church and the 'worship' of leaders as divulged in I Cor. 3):
"[In the first 2 chapters of this epistle] one discovers that the Almighty utterly reverses so many of the values cherished by the world. What the world judges wise, God dismisses as folly; what the world rejects as foolishness is nothing less than God's wisdom. The world loves power and prestige; God displays himself most tellingly on the cross, in sublime and wretched weakness-- yet that "weakness" effects God's utterly breathtaking redemptive plan, and thus proves stronger than all the world's "strength."
The world pants after strong leaders, but leaders in the church must first of all be servants of the Lord Christ...
The world tries to impress with its rhetoric and sophistication, cherishing form more than content. The apostles of Jesus Christ prize truth above style and quietly refuse to endorse any form that may prove so attractive, even diversionary, that the centrality of the gospel truth is jeapordized."

Leadership and ministering for Christ is a simply immense responsibility and privilege, we must never, and can never, seek glory for ourselves or bring about any faction due to our preference for the leader and not for the Centrality of Gospel truth and Cross-centric leadership!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brilliant thoughts from Sinclair Ferguson

It is such a joy getting through a bunch of books at the moment and I am reading a simply brilliant one by Sinclair Ferguson at the moment. (Who by the way Piper rates as one of the quintessential preachers of the 20th Century along with Dr. Lloyd Jones) In one sense this is a Systematic Theology but with a great angle in that it is less systematic and more devotional and is written primarily with a Christological 'Bias.' It is entitled 'IN CHRIST ALONE'

Here are some words from him that struck me last night:
Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing "outside of" God Himself; when the Father, Son, and Spirit found eternal, absolute, and unimaginable blessing, pleasure, and joy in Their holy triunity-- it was Their agreed purpose to create a world. That world would fall. But in union-- and at infinitely great cost-- this glorious triune God planned to bring you (if you are a believer) grace and salvation.
This is deeper grace from before the dawn of time. It was pictured in the rituals, the leaders, and experiences of the Old Testament saints, all of whom longed to see what we see. All this is now ours! Our salvation depends on God's covenant, rooted in eternity, foreshadowed in the Mosaic liturgy, fulfilled in Christ, enduring forever. No wonder Hebrews calls it "so great a salvation" (Heb. 2:3).

Eat well on words such as this people, and remember the greatest quotes from the greatest of men should cause us to race straight back to the source of all GREAT truth... God's words in Scripture.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Heartfelt Thanks

A chapter in my life drew to a close yesterday. Subject matter, well let’s see: 4 years, one marriage, one gorgeous boy, a little one on the way, a multitude of friends and many, many good memories. We said farewell to New Community Church Sidcup yesterday and the emotion was simply all consuming. The wife, little guy and myself had to stand before the loving people of New Community yesterday for the last time as a member of the leadership team there, a member of the loving community that has wholeheartedly embraced us for this chapter of our lives and which, in many ways, has played a significant role in the formation of who we are as a family. Not easy to say the least, far more meaningful and momentous than I presumed!

This is just a blog of immense gratitude, a blog to put my heart on display regarding our joy yesterday. So thank you people of New Community; thank you for love, for care, for grace, for rebuke, for joy, for time and for simply pushing us towards the person of Jesus Christ in a myriad of ways.
No time with a community of people is even near perfect and I am not even attempting to intimate that. But even imperfections within a community of God’s people, when shaped and steered by the sovereign purposes of our Great Yahweh, can bring enormous good (just listen to Joseph as he talks to his brothers at the end of the book of Genesis).
We have known much ‘good.’
You have forever touched our hearts and will remain dear to us until we will certainly meet again as that trumpet sounds (hopefully before but hey…).
Remain in the grip of His grace.


An Ode to my friend Caffeine

My gorgeous wife has convinced me to refrain from the intake of Coffee (a Christian's legal drug of choice) for 3 weeks. I know it is out of love for me and out of a desire for my health (not that 3 weeks will make a difference I know) but I do miss my dear friend, already!

A mate of mine recently refrained from the black liquid gold for a month or so, really just to prove to himself that he was not controlled by this ‘drug.’ His time is up and I know he is all the happier for it, still haven’t checked in with him if he is now more certain that he is the ruler of his own life. I have sort of taken a page out of his book to show my body who is boss and I will let you know how well I do. I thought I would write a brief ode to this dear friend of mine (and millions of others) just to show that there are no hard feelings I guess (please note I am just being stupid here):

It was in the west that you first won my heart,
How deeply it aches whenever we’re apart.
My emotions, my mind lifted in the arc of your stride,
Yes, it seems my body you lift in a ‘mini-high.’
But you do not own me, this I assure,
You’re just a drink, a beverage and nothing more!
(Forgive me if I upset you dear friend, see you soon.)